Spiritual but not religious

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Waterlily

Mindfulness and meditation.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

What exactly does “Spiritual but not religious” mean?

A very large number of people here in America are describing themselves as “Spiritual, not religious.” There is a growing disconnect between religion and people’s day-to-day life.

As a result of this disconnect we are gaining some things, I hope, such as a wider appreciation of our differences, but we are also losing some things.

In secular programs, those run by government agencies, we try to accommodate people of all faiths and those with no faith. Sometimes this is a challenge. We have to ask people what their religious or spiritual belief is without implying that they need to have one or that the belief they have is not acceptable to the agency.

An example of accommodating faiths and other spiritual beliefs

There are a whole lot of people who are vegetarians, do not eat meat variety vegetarians, not because of religious or health reasons but because they view the killing animals for human food as morally wrong.

Our society seems to be doing a better job of accommodating this particular moral belief. More events are offering vegetarian meals.

It gets harder when we take into account that some faiths do not eat pork, some decline beef and some require particular diets as in kosher.

Beyond dietary restrictions, it gets progressively more difficult to accommodate other spiritual beliefs within our increasingly multicultural society.

During intake processes, we are supposed to ask about the client’s race or ethnicity. An increasing number of clients are finding it difficult to answer that question. Some people are reporting 5 or more different ethnicities in their background.

When talking with clients I try to make it a practice to ask about their spiritual or religious beliefs.

Say the client reports that they are African-American. This tells me nothing about their spiritual beliefs. We need to try to stay open to all manner of possibilities.

More and more people are finding it impossible to answer questions about their faith. We have to tread lightly here. I do not want to imply that they need to have a faith or that any particular faith is preferred, but I do not want to completely disregard their spiritual practices in designing their treatment.

Those few who do answer are resorting to one of two responses. I am a Christian or Spiritual But Not Religious. Most who say Christian do not self-identify with any particular denomination. They are not Catholic; they are not Protestant and so on. Some few report attending Non-denominational churches.

Most who self-describe as Christians are reporting, at least in my experience that they do not attend any particular church.

A very large number are reporting as Spiritual but not religious.

So why does all this matter? From a practical standpoint those who self-identify as believing something do better in treatment than those who have no faith. This benefit includes those who self-identify as Atheists if they also report some particular higher law or principle, say right and wrong, that helps them guide their life and is reassuring in times of stress.

One of the gains from this spirituality moment has been sets of values that people take with them day by day in all areas of their lives. I am suspicious of any faith that requires you to be a believer for a couple of hours each week, while in a particular building, but you are free to spend the rest of the week on raping, pillaging, and burning.

One of the things we are losing as a result of this increased emphasis on spirituality and the disconnect from religion is the loss of meaningful shared rituals.

Rituals give meaning to things that would otherwise be everyday actions.

Rituals are not solely the providence of the religious world. Court proceedings, with that robe, the bailiff, and the ritualized language, make the whole process seem more meaningful and as a result, are intended to increase respect for the law and the workings of the court. The ritual gives the process meaning. Occasionally the system debases the meaning when they do not follow the principles of justice these rituals imply.

Graduation ceremonies are a ritual we can all share to make the transition to another life stage. Marriages used to be a way to make the transition from being two separate dating people; to one committed couple. We still have the ritual despite the loss of meaning that a wedding has after having the parties have several children.

Funerals are also a ritual we all share that helps us negotiate the loss of a person who had some meaning in our life.

In places where there is one dominant faith, rituals are shared by virtue of people’s participation in that faith. With the decline of active participation in a particular religion and an increase in self-identified Spiritual But Not Religious, what has been missing are the rituals that used to accompany life events.

Creating new rituals.

People in recovery have resorted to creating new rituals that may help them to share the emotions and resolve the changes in status without invoking a particular religion.

Addicts may write a “Goodbye Letter” to their drug of choice. There are traditions of sponsorship that may replace the “rite” of confession in certain religions. People celebrate the anniversary of their embarking on the road of recovery.

One remaining challenge has been how to create meaningful shared rituals that do not impinge on people’s particular religious faith and allow full participation in the ritual.

Whatever your spiritual or religious tradition, here is wishing you the best possible life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Therapists have therapists – Who do pastors and priests see?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Church.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Who is helping the helpers?

Therapists are encouraged to go for their own therapy. Rather than being a sign that there is something wrong with this professional, having someone you can talk to about your problems is recommended practice, and for good reason.

This got me thinking, wondering, which professionals who help others are encouraged to get help for themselves and who are too embarrassed, ashamed, or arrogant to get help for themselves.

Counselors need to have counselors. 

First, let’s talk about the counselor or therapist who goes for therapy, and then we will inquire about other professions.

Beginning counselors are encouraged to see another professional both as a part of the training process and ongoing after they are licensed. Being a helper is a stressful job and you would have to be pretty arrogant to think that once you become a professional you will not need to see someone for your own stuff.

Clients sometimes ask about this. I see it in the search terms from time to time. There is no reason to avoid a therapist who is going for personal counseling and in fact, we think this is a good thing. Many licensing boards feel it is so important that the counselor work on their own stuff that they allow us to count a certain number of hours of personal counseling towards licensure. This process is so important there is even a bonus of extra credit for some hours of personal therapy.

Many schools require counselors in training to go for their own counseling. Doctors see other doctors. Teachers take classes from other professionals and it just makes sense to take good care of yourself.

Drug counselors need help staying sober.

Substance Abuse Counselors have recognized this for a long time. They are at high risk of relapse by virtue of spending all day talking about drugs with their clients. Sponsors should have sponsors and therapists need to see another mental health professional.

In substance abuse counseling it is common, almost universal for the counselor to be in recovery and often they are still attending meetings.

Mental health staff needs self-care also.

What we do not hear nearly enough about is the number of mental health professionals who are in some form of mental health recovery. Our professional schools are still too under the influence of those Freudians who never self-disclose anything to anyone. But a whole bunch of mental health professionals has told me privately that they have struggled with or are in recovery from some mental illness or other. If not them then they have a relative or friend who has that issue.

Why else would you want to work in this field if you or someone you knew had not had to overcome an issue?

Incredibly that mental health professional who entered the field because someone helped them create a happy life, once they are in the field, becomes too embarrassed to talk about their own issues. Some have even been threatened with the loss of job or friends if they self-disclose this item. Peer counselors and members of self-help groups are at a special risk to think that having “fixed” themselves they can now stop working on themselves and just help others. This is a relapse waiting to happen.

If you work in this field, as a professional, a peer, or even a volunteer, you need to stay connected to a support system that can help your recovery and that may mean you need to continue to go to meetings or see a professional.

So what about other profession’s self-care?

It is Sunday, I wrote this on another day and scheduled it to appear later, but it is being posted on a Sunday. Which brings up the question – who – mostly works on Sundays?

The first thing that comes to mind is what about religious leaders?

One way of understanding churches and similar institutions is that they are hospitals for the spiritually sick. Many recovery programs include spirituality or religion as parts of the life that need to be included in your recovery plan.

So do religious leaders, pastors, priests, rabbis, Imam and so forth ever need spiritual guidance, or are those guys and gals that close to spiritual perfection? Far as I know there are relatively few perfect people on earth and the ones who think they are there, that they have arrived at perfection, they are at the highest risk of taking a wrong turn into thinking that they need to take over and do the job of being God.

Does anyone out there know – do pastors see other pastors? They can’t very well go to church can they, what with having to work every single Sunday.

I know that some denominations have a hierarchy and that the local pastor or priest has to report to a superior. Mostly that looks like running a business. How many viewers did your sermon get and how much was in the collection? What about real spiritual guidance?

Given the number of cases of child sexual abuse and the affairs of the clergy, one has to wonder. Pastors and Priests do, for the record, end up in rehab. We can’t tell you which ones. That is about confidentiality. It would appear that religious leaders have the same prohibition on self-disclosure therapists are encouraged to observe. They just seem able to hide it better than depressed psychotherapists.

What is up with us not wanting to admit that the caregiver sometimes needs help and that needing help sometimes does not disqualify you from being of service to others?

Related articles

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel